By Noah W. Whitmore
Advisors: Dr. Marco J. Castaldi and Dr. Robert Farrauto
Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
In the United States, approximately 1 ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) is generated per person per year. Of this waste, approximately 22 % is recycled, 14 % is combusted in wasteto-energy facilities, and 55 % is landfilled. When MSW is deposited at a landfill, it decomposes anaerobically via the simplified reaction
C6H10O4 + 1.5H2O = 3.25CH4 + 2.75CO2,
generating a gaseous mixture of roughly 50 % methane and 50 % carbon dioxide by volume, as well as trace amounts of volatile organic compounds. Untreated, landfill gas poses various environmental concerns; captured, LFG is a local renewable energy source. While approximately 2.6 million tons of methane is captured annually from landfills in the United States, 70 % of which is used to generate heat or electricity, efficient utilization of LFG is an area for research and development.
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